Social Construction in Human Geography
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Social construction in its purest form is not defined easily, the by the book definition from dictionary.com is “a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; apperception of an individual, group, or idea that is constructed' through cultural or social practice.” Social construction in layman’s terms is the foundation for everything everywhere you encounter in life. When a person is born and slowly learns the world surrounding them everything from what gender they are to what race they are is formed by society through social construct. Social construction is a concept that is completely created by humans, it is rather easy to make the connection why it would be such a predominant part of human geography. Since Social construction is covers such a wide array of areas, I am going to focus specifically on why it is important in human geography, and how time and space are socially constructed.
Human geography, to put it simply is the study of humans. When humans come together they can form a Culture which is defined as “shared patterns of learned behavior, attitudes, and knowledge” (Human Geography 113). Culture continues to be a main factor of both human geography and social construction by being formed and created by society. Culture consists of single qualities known as culture traits. Culture traits are behaviors that are thought of and done as a normality by one region or more but not as the rest of the world. An example of a culture trait could be wearing a jersey to a sporting event, which is also seen as a result of social construct because society is the sole creator of the tradition such that should wear jerseys to sporting events. Culture is only the start of Social construction as people in these first cultures move to other regions different culture traits are developed leading to culture realms. Culture region are where society has created some of the same traits in surrounding areas, while also having differing traits of their own. An example is “In the United States, a region such as New England could be defined as the area in which many people root for the Red Sox, pronounce chowder “chowda,” and use the word wicked as an adjective for something extreme, as in “it’s wicked cold out there!”(Human Geography 113). The connection between social construction and culture was so obvious to me because neither one are limited to anything specific. The entire makeup of a person being from certain region could be created dramatically from his/her culture. All of those traits that create culture that has shaped said person is created through social construction, such as variations to language, traditions, and actions that are thought to be the norm. Since social construction is involved in all aspects of humans understanding the world around them it is easy to see why social construction is important to human geography.
Time, how is the concept socially constructed? Social construction being “a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society” (Dictionary.com). The entire concept of time is created through a social mechanism by society. Time is measured in seconds, minutes, and hours, but before there were regulations placed on time society like everything else had created their own view on time. “The U.S. national time standard, for instance, didn’t emerge until 1883, when it was adopted by the railroads, which needed to maintain common timetables. Before that, cities largely kept their own local time, and many were not happy to have big government and big railroads force standardization on them. “Let the people of Cincinnati stick to the truth as it is written by the sun, moon and stars,” editorialized one newspaper when the changeover was going into effect” (Smithsonian). If time had not become regulated the differences could be substantial. There are differences in the social construct as far as culturally as well if you think in the terms of how long a work day or week would be. The United States, we think of 8 hours a day typically that is not the standard in other countries. In lecture we talked of vacation time which could also be created by society in the United States the normality is minimal, which is the opposite in much of the rest of the world. Another thought that is created by social construction is idea of being early, on time, and being late. That was created by society how do you decide if a person is on time, or early, or late.
Social construction is very versatile especially in regards to the process from when humans are first born to developing cultures and venturing further to social construction of space. The social construction of space covers a vast amount of topics, the textbook defines the term as “this is the idea that society shapes the spatial nature of our world. How is the cultural landscape of your community reflective of the valves of your community” (Human Geography 125). SO I take that definition that like the other aspects of social construction, humans if moving into a new area that has not already had a community developed on it, and then humans will shape the area with cities filled with structures that are unique to the culture of people taking the land. If humans take over land that has already been developed, the people taking over will make changes to shape it and make it their own something that would represent their culture well. Once on the land society can split the land according to ideology and/or power and example “many communities in the American south have great geographic disparities between where the whites live and where blacks live.”(Human Geography 125). Southern culture have adopted that ideology.
Social Construction “a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; apperception of an individual, group, or idea that is constructed' through cultural or social practice” (Dictionary.com). Social construction covering such an array of things it is easy to see how it is such a major party of human geography. If through humans from the beginning of their lives until they create culture and ideology where they live by, all of these things are formed by society using social construction. All of those elements also are part of human geography. Humans would be lost without the social construction.
"Social Construct."Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/social+construct>.
"Why Time Is a Social Construct."Smithsonian. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-time-is-a-social-construct-164139110/?no-ist>.
Environmental determinism “the controversial idea, popular in early twentieth century and largely discredited today, that climate or other physical qualities of an area dictate the culture of the people who live there” (Human Geography G-3). Essentially environmental determinism is that land and climate decided how cultures would act and how their societies would become form. As stated in the definition the idea is not as big in today’s society but in the past was thought of as the absolute truth. Environmental determinism rises and falls like many things through history it is close to the opposite of social construction where society shapes what things. To go more in depth about environmental determinism I am going to focus on covering the development of environmental determinism, who was arguing for it, what values it reflected, the obvious issues with environmental determinist thought, and the downfall of environmental determinism.
Even though environmental determinism is rather a new getting popular in early twentieth century, parts of the theory actually dates back to late classical era. “Climatic factors for example were used by Strabo, Plato, and Aristotle to explain why the Greeks were so much more developed in the early ages than societies in hotter and colder climates. Additionally, Aristotle came up with hisclimate classification systemto explain why people were limited to settlement in certain areas of the globe.” (About.com). Aristotle may have been taking the theory in the simplest terms but it definitely relates to the theory of environmental determinism in its final form. Many scholars early on used environmental determinism there were a few that believed that society or surrounding areas/climates were the result of different skin tones such as Ibn Khaldun, speaking of Africa’s hot climate being the source of the darker skin pigment. (About.com). which is a pretty good hypothesis considering he was alive during the 14th century.
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